Last week when we did an overview of the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, we said that the Velvets suffered from an audience that wasn’t ready for them. Well, if that band had no audience, they had Warhol’s pop-art movement and the Factory to fall back on, but for a band like Iggy and the Stooges, they were lone outsiders, looking in on the rock’n’roll scene and laughing from their apocalyptic wasteland that they lived in. What the Stooges, especially Iggy Pop, understood more than any other band at the time, was the pure power of destruction as a form of creation. Whilst David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were desperately trying to ‘create’ to varying degrees of success, the Stooges posed the question of ‘What does destructive music sound like?’. What does music that doesn’t want to ease the ears, but scorch them and nuke them for good measure sound like? When other musicians had tried to comment on war, especially Vietnam, Iggy and co. instead tried to sonically imitate it. It’s chaotic, it’s bloody, it’s got a madman in charge – Iggy Pop.
‘Search And Destroy’ is the definitive Iggy and the Stooges song. Jason Williamson played guitar on Raw Power, an unusual choice considering Ron Asheton’s role on the first two Stooges album – the first being moderate by Raw Power standards and Fun House being the freaky sister to Raw Power. But Williamson brought a whole new style. Whereas Asheton was more for classic rock traditionalism with the fiery beginnings of punk thrown in, Williamson was proto-industrial, almost embodying the mechanical toil of their hometown Detroit. Another change was Pop. The band was now no longer just ‘The Stooges’ after all, it was ‘Iggy And…’. Fun House is arguably sweet by his Raw Power standards. He sounds like he’s being jumped with electricity at intervals, like on ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ where he breaks into fevered half-words, groans, shrieks, yelps, moans. He was famous for slashing himself up onstage, and it translates recorded because it sounds like he’s attacking himself. He also oozes sex, but that’s just Iggy.
The Stooges even manage to make their ballads menacing. Pop explained that Columbia wanted a ballad per side, so the results were ‘Gimme Danger’ and ‘I Need Somebody’ and while they aren’t exactly Elton John piano ballads, their slower pace and the sex and violence bubbling rather than exploding in every direction leads to both songs giving balance to an otherwise hyperactive album. Take ‘I Need Somebody’, which has a cowboy stomp to it that translates Pop’s swaggering, hip-thrusting walk whilst leering in the faces of onlookers. The lyrics have a cliche ‘bad boy’ topic where he pulls a woman from her sacred good-ness into his world of darkness. It’s almost Lana Del Rey in reverse, although it pains us to say it. Obviously, the Stooges are a product of rock America and are going to carry some baggage in their lyrics when it comes to objectifying women. Pop’s hellish shrieks at the end of the track intertwined with Williamson’s guitar solo don’t quite scream as hard as the end of ‘Penetration’, where Pop makes noises that sound like a baby and comes off as completely unhinged.
Raw Power was an outsider at the time it was released, but time has let it age better than the classic rock of the time (and was helped along the way by Danny Boyle’s ’90s classic film Trainspotting). If the Velvet Underground was the freak’s choice in the 60s, then Iggy and his friend Bowie were the ultimate choice. Iggy and Bowie were ying and yang. Iggy even got a successful solo career out of it, cleaning up his sound and having several radio-friendly hits under the production of Bowie. The strength of Raw Power is its conciseness and knowing how to use space wisely. It’s eight tracks long and thirty minutes in length – pretty much establishing the punk manual. It was ‘get in, rock for eight tracks, no messing around, get out’. It’s influence is legendary, being one of the few products of the early 70s that wasn’t spat on by punks when they arrived in the late 70s. Pleasing a cynical punk is reason enough to celebrate Raw Power, and that’s not even mentioning the aggression and speed of it.
Funnel Recommends: Search And Destroy / Penetration / Shake Appeal